The Idler Wheel Album Review – By Brianna Latzman

Fiona Apple, born Fiona Apple McAffee-Maggert, is an American singer and songwriter. Her most well known song is Criminal which was released as track number four on her debut album, Tidal. Apple’s signature style of rock includes frequent use of the piano as well as Apple has reached peak success with her music and is a household name. While more musically active in the late 1990s and the early 2000s, she is still putting out albums today, her 5th and most recent album “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” was released in 2020.

‘The Idler Wheel’ is Apple’s 4th album which was released in 2012. The full title of the album, “The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do” was derived from a poem written by Apple This album features 12 songs that vary in length but are fairly uniform in their sound.

The album opens with the song “Every Single Night”, which has a quiet melody, beginning with just a few notes on the piano. The song begins to build as it gets to the chorus, but just as quickly returns to the soft sound that it began with. I really like how Apple experiments with this idea of switching from loud to soft and sweet to angry, specifically in this song.

There is a lot of anger in this album. The tone of Apple’s voice and many of her lyrics hold a feeling of resentment towards someone (maybe an ex?). This anger comes out in certain songs like “Left Alone” and “Hot Knife”. Apple includes lyrics like “if I’m butter then he’s a hot knife” to really drive home this point of destruction through another person. 

My favorite song on the album is “Left Alone”, the fifth track. It begins with drum beats, something that is unusual to hear in a Fiona Apple song and especially in this specific album. The song then gives way to a more familiar piano sound that Apple is known for. However, there is a faster tempo and a more ominous-sounding piano than on other songs on the album. In the chorus, Apple says “tears calcify in my tummy” which is a very alluring lyric. The word “calcify” paints a very specific image that is unique to the song. 

The album ends similarly as it started, with a melancholic tone. The last song on the album is titled “Largo” and is another one of my favorites. This song is just piano and vocals but the simplicity adds to the experience of the song. Largo is a real bar, located in LA that Apple feels at home at, surrounded by people that know how to make her feel better and forget her troubles. This song does not feel as resentful as the other songs on this album. The first lyric states that she was “recently rid of a man again”; perhaps this song is about how Apple copes with the relationship issues that she poses in the rest of the album. 

‘The Idler Wheel’ is a standout Fiona Apple album. It’s simple in its production, but also lyrically complex. This album never feels redundant because of the slight differences that occur from song to song. Apple knows how to write an album that is good all the way through! I recommend this album to anyone who is looking for something to listen to, whether it be something old or something new.

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